Police seek clues to solve mystery of man's death
IQALUIT He was an Inuk pipe smoker who suffered from arthritis and chronic back pain, but how he died and who he was remains a mystery.
That's almost as much as Iqaluit RCMP know about the identity of a body that was found in the Lewis Bay area last September.
A group of people discovered the body when they were in the area on a healing retreat. It was under a pile of rocks in a well-traveled area of Lewis Bay about 36 kilometres south of Iqaluit.
Iqaluit RCMP Constable Pierre Caron said police first thought it was a burial site because the body was covered with rocks, but added that's a practice which was stopped about 50 years ago.
"If it is a burial site then we want to return the deceased," he said, however, "foul play is always in the picture until it's ruled out."
Body sent for study
The body was sent to a forensic lab in Toronto for examination last fall and the chief coroner received a report in November, but police still don't know who the man is or how he died.
"We've been checking the missing persons reports for all the territories but none have matched," Const Caron said.
In the Iqaluit area most missing persons on record are from a boating accident in 1994, but those have been ruled out because of age.
Though they couldn't determine the cause of death, experts say the man was plagued with arthritis in his hands and would have experienced great pain when he used them.
He wasn't a tall man, standing between 5'2" and 5'8", and was between 50 and 76 years old when he died.
Const Caron said that although the skeleton was discovered virtually intact, there were some missing bones which makes it impossible to determine the exact height.
Smoked a pipe
Forensic evidence also revealed that the man was likely a pipe smoker because of a circular gap between his upper and lower teeth which would have been noticeable when he smiled.
All modern technology aside, old-fashioned, on-site investigation revealed that the man probably didn't die before 1984 because a 1985 penny was found near his body. Couple that with forensic evidence and police place the time of death between the spring of 1985 and the fall of 1995.
This mystery has more than just police puzzled; no one seems to have any answers about the man's identity.
Mary Lou Sutton-Fennel of Iqaluit was part of the group that discovered the remains.
"There was a lot of unease that there was a body there," she said. "It was very clear it wasn't one of the traditional burials of the past. It was a new grave.
"I don't think people were shocked. They were deeply concerned to determine who this person was. I was deeply impressed with the degree of caring."
The group of about 10 people held a ceremony to say goodbye to the person and release the energy from the site.
"There was tremendous respect shown to this site. Nobody dug into it. For us it was a week of being there and dealing with the feelings of that body being there. There's a lot of personal loss that has taken place that hasn't been accounted for."
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A listing of unidentified persons found in the Territory of Nunavut.